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June 03, 2008

Analysis: May was Afghanistan's most violent month

    Listening to some U.S. and allied officials, one could get the impression that things are not going too badly for U.S. and allied forces battling al Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    First, a Taliban spring offensive was called a "myth." Now CIA Director Michael Hayden says that while still a threat, al Qaida is being kept off balance in its presumed lair in Pakistan's tribal region bordering Afghanistan. U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill, whose stint as commander of US and NATO forces ended today, says that Taliban fighters are fleeing toward Pakistan from a U.S. Marine offensive in southern Afghanistan. And a senior British commander tells the Guardian newspaper that the Taliban command structure on both sides of the frontier has been "fractured" and the Islamist militia is "very much on the backfoot."

    But now listen to John McCreary, a former senior intelligence analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff who compiles NightWatch, an insightful analysis by a veteran professional of daily international developments drawn from open, unclassified sources. His take today on Afghanistan paints a far different - and gloomier - picture.

    According to McCreary, May saw more violence than any other month since the 2001 U.S. intervention that toppled the Taliban and forced Osama bin Laden and his followers to flee into Pakistan. He says there were 214 violent incidents in more than 100 of the country's 398 districts last month. That was up from April's count of 199 violent incidents in 86 districts.

    Writes McCreary: "Despite official efforts to spotlight improvement, the spring offensive this year is far worse than last year's spring offensive. The security situation has deteriorated again. At no prior time has the Taliban managed to stage attacks in over 100 of the 398 districts."

    "If Taliban fighters are heading to Pakistan, they are going back to base to rest and to get more ammunition and supplies," he concludes.

    In other words, even though there are now more U.S. and ISAF troops than ever before - about 50,000, including 33,000 Americans - Afghanistan may be on track to seeing its bloodiest year yet since the U.S. intervention.

    And they are supposed to be getting ready to hold a presidential election in Afghanistan next year.


   

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"Nukes & Spooks" is written by McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon).

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